ONE WEEPING MAN
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 1998:
He sat over his dying horse, his head
buried in his hands. He had walked with his horse for
20 miles from his village. The horse was behaving
strangely, kicking and walking stiffly, so the old
man did not ride her, but walked beside her, talking
to her, stroking her, cajoling her on the long journey.
His purpose was to reach our shelter, where he knew
the best doctor was available.
The diagnosis was grim. The horse had
contracted tetanus as a result of a wound to her lower
leg. Our vet immediately sedated the horse to relax
the spasms, and our staff spent several hours on the
road trying to find a chemist who sold anti-tetanus
toxoid. This was finally located and purchased at a
very high price.
The night was very cold. The villager,
whose name was Pari Narayan, sat beside his horse
with our veterinarian. The horse was sedated and
covered in sacks to protect her from injuring herself.
The owner wore a white turban, kurla, and pyjamas,
and was swathed in a woolen shawl. He had the high
cheekbones and curling mustache typical of a
Rajasthani villager. He stared into the darkness without
moving. He was clearly a very poor man. He
told us that the only income his family earned was
from hiring his horse out for use in weddings. It is a
tradition in a Rajasthani Hindu wedding that the
bridegroom rides a finely decked mare to the marriage,
perhaps an age-old symbol of the importance
of horses in the lives of the rajputs.
Next day, the horse’s condition had deteriorated.
She was clearly not going to recover, and
needed to be euthanized. The owner was informed.
He did not cry, but agreed that she needed to be
released from her suffering. We offered him as a gift
a fine young gelding whom we had rescued and
restored to health. We knew we could give this horse
to him, as we had seen how well he cared for his own
horse, and how lovingly he caressed her. However,
he refused the gift, saying people only use a mare for
the wedding ceremony, so a gelding would be no use
to him. We then offered him a thousand rupees for
his family, but again he refused. We offered to drive
him back to his village, and this he accepted.
Before he left, he said goodbye to his
horse. He put his head against her neck and, no
longer able to maintain his composure, began to
weep. All the staff was assembled and we also began
to weep. Then we drove him to his village. The village
was connected to the outside world only by potholed
roads, and at one point we had to drive through
a river. There was no telephone in the village. Pari
Narayan’s family lived in a mud house with whitewashed
walls. He had five children, who were
almost without clothes despite the cold. All his family
wept when we gave them news of the horse’s
death. We promised the family that we would ask
our supporters for money to pay for a new horse.
The motto which our founder Crystal
Rodgers chose for this shelter is “For helping suffering
animals and all living beings.” She knew that you
cannot help animals without helping humans as well.
––from Help In Suffering